Be a kid
The brilliant thing about being a designer is you get to explore. You get to ask dumb questions. You get to ask why over and over again. The world is a place to discover, to experiment and to change.
In college I was bad at everything but the goal was to try many things. I created wire sculptures. Screen printed terrible posters. Carved foam into the shape of a penguin. Filled a stairwell with a sequence of typography flying in and out of the wall. I was terrible at all of this, but it was fun. I was not afraid to dive in. I know there are better artists all around me. Experts that would laugh at my feeble attempts.
Don’t get stuck on the things you are good at.
We love to hear praise and will continue to do things that reward us. To a fault. Design is an ever changing field.
Core elements of design will not change but everything else will. Many of us work in a field that is relatively new. The designers of the 80’s used tools that seem archaic to me. The tools I currently use will seem archaic in 30 years. Khoi Vihn gave a great summary of the State of web design tools. It was a quick view and obviously not comprehensive as he quickly received responses with tons more wisdom to be gleaned. This should not surprise anyone.
“Technology continually changes, but the thinking never changes. So that’s the future of design. It will be adapting to different forms.” Paula Scher quoted in Critiqued by Christina Beard.
The medium will change.
I work for a company that started out designing tear-sheets to be faxed, luckily we no longer tackle that problem. We have evolved and will continue to evolve to work with new mediums. Change is scary, yet being to afraid to change is even scarier.
Focus on the foundation.
Many things won’t change. Focusing on the things that won’t change will build your foundation. I call it Design 101. The elements you learned early but must continue to grow in. Look for the underlying grid in the websites you frequent. Try to understand why a particular layout was used. Learn about typography. Take one of your favorite websites and adjust what is used? Keep a collection of sites that exhibit excellent typography. Design school taught me how to think about problems.
Approach the world and your job like a child and you will find joy.
Try something new. Try something you are terrible at. Let the intern tell you about where she thinks the industry is headed. Try the layout in ten different directions. Take a break to play. Remember what being a kid was like. Most importantly have fun and continue to learn.